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Three Utah Horses Test Positive for West Nile Virus

Flickr: Enrique Dans

Three Utah horses have tested positive for West Nile Virus. Dr. Warren Hess is the assistant state veterinarian at the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. He says they’ve been dealing with West Nile Virus in horses since about 2003, with as many as 60 horses contracting the virus in a single year.

“Vaccination has certainly been a significant help in preventing this disease." he says. "All three of the horses, and the vast majority of all horses that have come down with this disease have been unvaccinated animals.”

Dr. Hess also says the virus isn’t just isolated to a single part of the state. The three horses diagnosed with it this year are from Box Elder, Uintah and Iron counties.

About one out of every three horses that gets the virus will die. Hess says if a horse owner notices a horse is having trouble walking, or looks a little weak, the owner should contact their veterinarian immediately.

“These diseases can progress quite rapidly and if you see that disease after you get home from work one day and if you wait until the next day to take him in to be seen the horse could be down on its back end already by that point,” he says.

Most cases of West Nile Virus are diagnosed in the months of August and September. Hess says if you haven’t vaccinated your horses already, that’s step number one, but in the meantime, horse owners can try to eliminate the source of the disease by removing areas of standing water where mosquitoes breed. 

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